Many people will say that pursuing a space-based solar power energy campaign is too ambitious, that there are more immediate solutions to get us through our economic/energy crisis until a time when spaced-aged, science fiction-inspired future tech can be safely explored further. They might say that we already have a head start with nuclear, oil and coal, as well as other greener alternatives like wind, water and Earthbound solar. They would be dead wrong. The truth is...
When I was growing up, Dufferin Street in Toronto was lined with factories producing incandescent light bulbs by GE. Those factories are long abandoned or turned into lofts or condos. The city and the federal government should be looking at attracting the next wave of lighting manufacturers ie the ones that will be producing smart lighting with light emitting diodes (LED) and organic light emitting diode (OLED) systems. (Link)
Consumers are already getting their first taste of LED technology...those outdoor solar-powered Christmas lights
The figure above compares the luminous efficacy (source efficacy) of conventional lighting technologies with the potential of light-emitting diode technology. (N.B. Log scale)
2008 was a big year for science breakthroughs on next generation bioenergy solutions. And that is a good thing for the future of energy.
The modern economy runs on ancient bioenergy. Coal is ancient biomass, oil is likely ancient microbes.
So why not tap the power of biology to ‘grow energy’ resources.
Forget about corn ethanol, the future taps the power of microorganisms not plants.
Next generation solutions such as algae and bacteria ‘eat’ carbon to produce biofuels, or use sunlight to produce hydrogen. Looking beyond 2015, we can imagine real breakthroughs in the field of Synthetic Biology that could change how we look at energy and carbon solutions.
List of Bioenergy Science Breakthroughs in 2008
December 16 2008 / by joelg / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy Year: 2008 Rating: 6 Hot
By Joel Greenberg and the Staff of The Energy Roadmap
2008 was a big year in energy and one that we could very well look back upon as the platform to the not so distant future of energy. Much has happened. To help you make sense of it all, we here at The Energy Roadmap have sifted through our bookmarks, Google Notebooks, back of the napkin lists, Twitter searches, interview transcripts, and RSS feeds to come up with the top 10 energy stories that will have an impact on our culture, society, and lives.
Top Energy Stories of 2008
#1 Story of the Year:
Electrification of the Passenger Car
#2 The Year of Scientific Breakthroughs
#3 The Obama Election
#4 From $147 to $50: The Price of Oil
#5 The Dying Gasp of Corn Ethanol
#6 The Clean Coal Lobby Breaks Through the Clutter...and Gets a Response
#7 Geeks Go Green
#8 The Rise of Local Initiatives
#9 Infrastructure Gains Attention
#10 Emerging Energy Missionaries & Visionaries
The Solar industry is growing up and going global. Now materials giant Dow Corning is investing $3 billion into basic materials for traditional photovoltaics and thin film solar.
The Chemistry side of Solar
The full potential of solar energy depends on our ability to make big advances in materials science.
How quickly solar can grow depends on our ability to design nanoscale structures that maximize the conversion of photons into electricity, photons into heat, or photons into hydrogen. And how many utilities and consumers take the leap!
So when we see 'Big Chemistry' companies get involved in the solar industry materials market, that should be a signal of growth (and growth pains) ahead!
Dow goes Green by Being Black
Dow Corning Corporation has announced several billion dollars of investment to provide critical materials to the fast-growing solar technology industry for both glass based solar and carbon based thin film.
Dow Corning and its Hemlock Semiconductor joint venture will begin manufacturing high purity monosilane, a key specialty gas used to manufacture thin-film solar cells and liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Combined with the new $1.2 billion build up at a Clarksville, Tennesee facility and the $1 billion expanded monosilane plant in Hemlock, Michigan operations may add up to 34,000 metric tons of polysilicon capacity for the fast-growing solar industry. Construction of both the Michigan expansion and the new Tennessee site will begin immediately.
What to watch: Oversupply of Polysilicon
By Joel Greenberg
In the blur of announcements from solar companies, oil company TV commercials, and news pundits, science sometimes get lost in the conversation. But it's science that will bring us to a workable energy future and this year has seen some significant breakthroughs. MIT's Daniel Nocera announced the development of a low cost catalyst that helps in the electrolysis of water into oxygen & hydrogen. The development of Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) for solid hydrogen storage continued to evolve; Nanotechnology continues to bring promising experimental results across many energy related fields including, catalysts for fuel cells; conversion of waste heat into electricity; a new theory explaining molecular movement in polymers; and more.
Which of these scientific breakthroughs might change the commercial viability of cleaner hydrocarbons, bioenergy, renewables and advanced energy storage systems?
Continue Reading other Top 10 Energy Stories from 2008
In 1972 a team of futurists published the book Limits to Growth which explored long-term forecast models based on rapidly expanding global economic and population growth against finite natural resources.
While most people assumed that growth could continue unabated, Limits to Growth offered a shocking alternative scenario - overshoot and collapse. Their future? The modern industrial economy would expand beyond the legacy resource capacity of the planet as supplies plateaued and depleted faster than expected. The 'Overshoot and Collapse' future scenario was mostly ridiculed by mainstraem economists and political leaders.
Now the world's leading oil forecasting agency is hinting that this future is closer than expected with regard to our conventional oil supplies. They are calling for an 'energy revolution'.
A Video Interview for the Ages
The UK's Guardian's George Monbiot has posted this fantastic, hard edged video interview with the International Energy Agency Chief Economist Dr Fatih Birol. (Link to video)
For those who have followed the 'peak oil' conversation evolve, this is the most shocking admission on record from a leading global oil analyst. Birol acknowledges that the major differences between the IEA's World Energy Outlook report from 2007 were based on the 'wrong assumptions' of oil field decline rates. He admits that, until 2008, no organization has ever done a comprehensive global oil field decline rate survey.
Monbiot's annoynance with the IEA's failure to back their forecasts with actual data is priceless, and scary given the implications of IEA's role in providing governments with accurate oil forecasts. In 2007 the IEA said the decline rate asumption was 3%, now in 2008 they say data support 6-7%. At that rate, the world's conventional oil production plateau could happen between 2020-2030.
Birol says that the current path is "not (economically) sustainable" and the IEA is now calling for 'an energy revolution'. We think this should certainly start with global leaders pushing to Kill the Combustion Engine and taking away the liquid fuel fed energy device that makes us so dependent on oil.
What to watch:
Peak Oil is about to go Mainstream
The broad implications of peak production in conventional oil resources?
December 15 2008 / by joelg / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy Year: 2008 Rating: 4 Hot
By the fall of 2008, every major automanufacturer from GM to Nissan to Tata--and a few startups such as Tesla and Aptera--had announced production model plans for all manner of electric vehicles, from all electrc vehicles, to plug-in hybrid electrics, to fuel cell vehicles, with deliveries to consumers starting in 2010. 2008 could well be known as the nail in the coffin for the bulky combustion engine which has plagued the auto industry with its manufacturing and design liabilities, and association with volatile oil markets.
How quickly might the world re-tool the global auto industry to build new vehicle chassis based on electric motors and advanced energy storage systems?
Continue Reading other Top Energy Stories from 2008
#2 The Year of Scientific Breakthroughs
A new Ceres report on company supply chain and operation efficiencies that support climate change strategies, has named IBM the #1 company for its internal practices and green innovation strategies. The RiskMetrics Group authored report analyzes climate change governance practices at 63 of the world's largest retail, pharmaceutical, technology, apparel and other consumer-facing companies.
Using a 100-point scale, the three highest scoring companies were IBM, UK-based grocery retailer Tesco and Dell, with 79, 78 and 77 points, respectively. More than half of the 63 companies scored under 50 points, with a median score of 38 points.
Beyond 'green' recognition, what does IBM see in a a Smart Planet?
The big story is not the 'green' award recognition for IBM, Tesco and Dell - it's the brand association IBM is trying to build between its core practice as a hardware-software service provider and the transformation of global industries that deal with infrastructure and the transmission of information, goods, energy and water.
Consumers can change light builts, but companies like IBM and Johnson Controls can transform industry level supply chains, built environments, and national infrastructure systems. This is where we are likely to find the greatest ROI.
IBM (and others) sees an opportunity to improve industrial scale efficiencies in a near term future shaped by software, sensors and micro controllers. The vision? A Smart Planet.
For IBM the world is quickly becoming, instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. This is the driving force behind 'Big Blue' trying to enable a 'Big Green'world. Sensors and Software can lead to a greener world.
By Ami Sampat
Continental Airlines and Boeing are preparing for the first flight of a plane run partially on next generation biofuels, which will leave on January 7 from Houston, Texas. Continental and Boeing's joint venture will be the first American plane to use jatropha as a biofuel. This biofuels milestone follows Virgin Atlantic's earlier test run, using coconut oil and babassu oil.
Why is this important?
Biofuels would not only help reduce the airline industry's carbon emissions but it could also be a more stable source of fuel.
The January 7th flight is going to be fueled by a 50/50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuels derived from algae and jatropha fuel. Jatropha is a shrub (non-food crop) grown on marginal lands. Its oil-rich seeds can be used to make biofuels. The first commercial scale Jatropha operations are now being tested in India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and West Africa.
Provided the test run goes well next month, this could open doors for the airline business and biofuel producers looking to capture a part of the aviation biofuel market.
While solar power is often described as the world's great untapped clean source of energy, ocean power deserves as much attention. In fact, it deserves a lot of attention given the expectation that the world will double energy consumption in the decades ahead. And the reality that most of the world's population lives close to an ocean.
Futures oriented energy engineers dream of capturing the steady kinetic and thermal of energy. Unlike solar and wind, ocean energy provides near 24/7 potential utilization.
A Low Mainteance Linear Generator?
Now a Swiss team from Upsalla University has developed and tested a novel system. For nearly three years, a wave power plant has stood on the bottom of the ocean a couple of kilometers off the west coast of Sweden, near Lysekil. Rafael Waters, from the Uppsala University Division of Electricity, designed and built the facility as part of his doctoral project.
The team's 'linear generator' generates electricity with the slow up and down movements of the waves. An ordinary generator transforms rotation energy to electricity, and it needs to turn at about 1500 rpm to be efficient. (Images)
“This means that a wave energy station with an ordinary generator needs energy transmission systems such as gearboxes or hydraulic systems and other complicated details that wear out and require much more maintenance than a linear generator,” says Rafael Waters. “Our generator has functioned without any trouble every time we started it up over the years, even though it has received no maintenance and has sometimes stood still for months.”
Future plans for the wave power array
December 08 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets Year: 2009 Rating: 1
A train station in Tokyo, Japan has put up a demo LED display which is powered by pedestrians stepping on a spring-board type power generator. "A person weighing 60kg (132 lbs) can generate 0.5W by stepping on the panel twice." The small panel you see above generates enough power for the LED screen to light up and display how much power has been generated so far. Although it will be removed by the end of the year, it still shows the potential power we can generate from the human body.
The greatest thing about this demo is it's sheer practicality in the real world. So many have been talking about solar panel highways or body-heat generating mobile devices, but not so much about kinetic energy. The energy-generating springboard has the additional benefit of being comfortable on the feet and back, something cement and pavement clearly lack. If these were installed in every pedestrian zone (heck, even on roads) it would feel like walking on a basketball court which are in themselves springy. If it proves to be more beneficial instead of developing a solar asphalt, it may just take over ground-level solar production.
via Digital World Tokyo